“Did you get some rest?” she asked sleepily through squinted eyes. He simply shook his head as her head came to rest upon his chest. She had stopped admonishing him for staying up for her protection nights ago. It wasn’t a conscious decision, sleep simply evaded him, and he was lucky to get in a nap now and then. Sookie hoped that once in their sanctuary of Sweden he would be able to abandon his self-imposed stress.
She knew he needed to decompress in his little cave, working out all the different scenarios that were perplexing his mind, trying to make sense of it all. She looked down at the white slip dress she was wearing, realising she had fallen asleep once more before finding the time to change and prepare for bed.
“I have something for you,” he said, moving away slightly from her hold and pulling a thick envelope out of his nightstand. She opened it to find another fake passport, nothing particularly new in their life as they were swapped out constantly while they moved across the globe. With little thought she placed it with the others, marking the oldest one as the one to throw out.
“Look inside,” he requested.
“What is this?” she asked, frowning with the discovery of the name on the identity card, ‘Sookie Northman’.
“If it had been me in Jason’s place, you wouldn’t have been allowed near me in the hospital,” Eric explained. “I have no family and I would want you there by my side.”
“I could have persuaded them,” she said, tapping at her forehead. She monotonously added, “I appreciate the gesture nonetheless.”
“Why do I feel you’re not that grateful?” Eric asked warily as her disappointment failed to hide amongst her tired features.
She let out a tiny sigh, and then mumbled, “I thought you were proposing.”
“Is that something you would want?” he asked curiously. “I’m afraid I have no legal identity now that would allow it.”
“It was with Bill,” she said, hating that his name always came up in moments like these. “I couldn’t fathom living with a man to whom I wasn’t married. I’ve stopped seeing the necessity of that since being with you.”
“We could have a wedding if you’d like,” he offered. “It just wouldn’t be legal.”
“It shouldn’t be about the wedding, but the marriage,” she explained while trying to reassert for herself what was truly important now. “We’re partners, I guess, so rings and a piece of paper shouldn’t change what’s already there.”
“Let’s stop calling this a loaner then,” he said, gently kissing over the cool coloured metal of Halina’s ring on her hand. It seemed a lifetime ago when he had haphazardly slipped it over her finger just before their departure to Monaco. It hadn’t come off ever since and he felt it right for it to remain where it was. “Promise to love, cherish, and obey?”
Eric smiled, while her forehead started to wrinkle with her frown, “Well, maybe not the obey part.”
He shook his head with a chuckle, “As if I’d expect anything less from you,” he whispered, punctuating the sentence with a kiss.
“Promise to love, cherish, and worship me?” she asked with a batting of her eyelashes.
“I already do,” he answered honestly, the perfunctory kiss exchanged.
With their bare bodies surrounded by white sheets, the commitment was made. After, she let out a small snort at the thought of her former wedding plans. She had clipped magazines for weeks, creating extensive pinning boards on the Internet, all to ascertain her perfect image of a wedding.
This was better. This was right. This was them.
Sookie was pleased to see their early morning exertion had managed to lull Eric into a deep sleep, a point of comfort lost to them both for a while now. She lay contentedly in his warm embrace, marvelling at the ring on her hand, like the glistening piece of jewellery had made a sudden appearance in her life instead of being there all along. With a goofy smile, she was content to just be silent, listening to his rhythmic, shallow breaths and staring at the ceiling, the entanglements that surrounded their lives lying forgotten for a moment, as if they were as easy to shrug off as the sheets hemming them in. Eric awoke with the most peaceful smile he ever beamed at her.
“Morning, wife,” he said, testing out the foreign word on his tongue.
“Morning, husband,” she returned with equal affection. “We should probably go before they cart Jason out on his own.”
He grumbled a little at the prospect of having to leave the comfort of the bed, though the thought of returning home to Sweden motivated him, even if he was forced to share the close quarters with Jason for a while. Luckily they were able to rent the guest apartment on the ground floor, but he wouldn’t be able to move in there until Jason could function somewhat independently. He was already on the lookout for Jason’s request for a hot Swedish nurse, a request he was eager to fulfil though Sookie was yet convinced. Eric astutely assumed a few days of taking care of Jason was sure to change that and a lead on an Estonian nurse named Yvetta seemed promising enough, not quite Swedish, but at least it fulfilled the Euro Ass criteria.
“The nurses are certainly going to miss your brother,” Dr. Brunner noted wryly while going over the last of the discharge papers.
“You too, doc?” Jason grinned.
“Shh,” she whispered with a wink, “don’t tell my wife.”
“Whoa!” Jason exclaimed. “The doc just got a whole lot more interesting!”
“JASON!” Sookie shouted, swatting him in reprimand.
“Hey! No hitting the invalid!” he protested. “Tell her, doc!”
“Ms. Stackhouse,” she grinned, “hit him as much as you like. Just mind the head. Now, if you’ll just sign here, you’re free to go and harass someone else’s nursing staff.”
“You just wait till I get my legs back, Lady!” Jason threatened in a jovial tone. “I’ll be running circles round you in no time. You’ll have nowhere to hide from me!”
“Well, then,” she smiled. “Lucky for me, this is what every doctor wishes to see their patients’ return to. Good luck, Herr Stackhouse.”
“Love you, too, doc,” he grinned. “Don’t be a stranger if you ever find yourself in Louisiana. Make sure to bring the wife,” he winked.
“I’ll be sure to do that,” she laughed along once they reached the exit. A team was already in place to help transport Jason, Sookie, and Eric to the airport. “You two,” she spoke sternly to the couple, “take good care of him and each other.”
“We will, thank you, Doctor,” Sookie beamed.
“And congratulations,” the doctor smiled knowingly at the couple who seemed altogether happier than at any other time she’d seen them.
Sookie gasped when Dr. Brunner’s gaze moved back and forth to the ring, “How did you know?”
“I am a doctor,” she shrugged. “We know these things.”
“What was the Doc talking about?” Jason demanded from his newly strapped-in position in the van.
Sookie looked at Eric and smiled, “Oh, nothing.”
Eric watched the rearview mirror with curiosity from the front seat as Sookie pointed out all the sights and landmarks of her newfound temporary home. It hadn’t been that long ago when he had been sitting with Sookie in a similar position while she held the same eyes of wonder as her brother did now while taking in the city of Stockholm.
Sookie fussed over her brother as if he was a small child while he settled them all into the apartment on Fiskargatan. She was nervous, fidgeting about with anything and everything to keep her occupied. Jason looked towards Eric for some help, but he silently motioned to Jason that he was on his own when it came to his sister and her idiosyncrasies.
Eric knew she was nervous for what was to come. Jason’s life had been at risk, intentional or not and he deserved to know what was at stake. Now was not a time to be careless. They had agreed if Jason had enough energy after their travels that everything would be explained that night, unwilling to put it off any longer. Eric’s little cave-cum-guest room was the perfect visual board to explain everything and with steely determination, Sookie had wheeled her brother into the room.
“We have to tell you something,” she said, anxiety clearly present all over her face while she gestured wildly around the room.
Not usually so observant with his sister’s behaviour, it was almost impossible for Jason not to notice her anxiety when they entered the small room. He took it in from his low position and looked from the walls curiously to his sister. Realisation setting in, his eyes were wide while gulping audibly.
“I’m gonna be an uncle,” he whispered with excitement, pulling his sister in for a bear hug, a tear tugging at his eye, “A baby girl…”
“Jason? What? No!” Sookie stumbled out of his lap, coming to understand his assumption while taking in the dusky pink colours of the wall. Her nervous demeanour had hardly helped with that along with the doctor’s comment. “The previous owners chose the colour. We have yet to change it,” she lied quickly. There were only so many things she was willing to disclose to her brother; the fact that the room was painted the exact colour of her nipples over Eric’ obsession with them not being one.
It was only then that Jason raised his eye level to the pin boards filled with documents and connecting strings. “What is all this then?”
Sookie sat down on the single bed while Eric proceeded to diligently explain everything with the aid of documents and timelines. Jason tried to nod along, a confused frown ever-present, while Sookie supplied some extra information here and there to ease comprehension. He remained pensively silent when he was finally caught up, making the other two in the room wonder if he had really understood it all, that the news that their parents were murdered had registered. Jason was hardly quick to catch on in normal circumstances, but the sustained brain injury had left its mark on his short term memory beyond his physical handicap.
“So you two didn’t just meet while backpacking?” Jason asked after some contemplation, startling Sookie in the process with his sudden astuteness. She had anticipated anger or sadness, but not this particular insight. Was it possible a brain injury had made Jason Stackhouse smarter?
The retelling of the death of their parents had caused her to revisit the substantial grief of their loss, and in turn, she had expected Jason to focus on that also, hopefully distracting him from the part she really didn’t want to share with him, Bill’s deception. Jason needed to know everything for his own safety, and she knew she could no longer stall the inevitable conversation.
Eric’s role was slightly fictionalised, he sought her out because he found the connection between their cases. Introducing Eric as her assassin husband who met her on the job seemed a hard sell, no matter how much Jason seemed to like him. So Bill’s deception was uncovered when Eric looked into her, and as the Good Samaritan he was, he helped her get away with the necessary cloaks and daggers. In return, Sookie had offered her services to uncover their shared objective and somehow they’d fallen in love in between. She hated to admit it wasn’t quite as romantic as the reality, no matter how much better it sounded.
Jason wasn’t concerned much with the obvious holes in their story. He was far too enraged when Sookie softly spoke of what Connor Thompson, or rather Bill Compton, had intended for his baby sister. They were lucky the hallways of the apartment were too limiting for a man in a wheelchair, otherwise he would have been out the door and on the next plane to Washington D.C. with his arsenal of guns.
“I shouldn’t have let you go like that,” Jason said after he had finally managed to temper his rage. Unknowingly, Sookie had given her brother the best motivation to get his legs functioning again. He had a score to settle now.
“I’m a terrible brother. If Eric hadn’t… You’d…” Jason swallowed a sob as his anger was overtaken by guilt. “Crystal… she lied about me becoming a daddy. I sold my sister out for money, for lies. If I’d paid attention, he never woulda-”
Sookie hugged her brother tightly in an awkward position, considering the wheelchair. She shushed her brother, consoling him that they were both led astray by people who supposedly loved them. In that moment, Eric knew Jason could handle the whole truth, knowing he understood betrayal and the necessity for revenge as well as he did. He might throw a punch at him for firing the gun at Sookie and he’d happily take it. He deserved it, he would do it to himself if he could. Sookie in her passive-aggressiveness had battered him emotionally enough over it, a physical blow would be painless in comparison.
To Sookie’s dismay, and despite repeated attempts to stop him, Eric retold his personal history from the moment Russell killed his family and took him under his wing. Sookie tried to distract him as the true circumstances of their first encounter neared, but he persevered. Her only weapon to stop it being a command from her mind was useless, deterred by the promise to never use it against him again. She feared for the onslaught and her brother’s reaction, but as Eric had anticipated, he was remarkably subdued.
“Make no mistake about it,” Jason said with a threat low in his throat. “If my sis wasn’t walking and talking right about now, you’d be a dead man. But I guess…” He paused for a moment, pulling his hand from Sookie’s tight grasp and offering it out to Eric to shake his hand. “Thank you. For my life and hers. We’re even.”
Eric nodded in acceptance, taking his hand with a tight grip. “One punch,” he offered.
“You’ll get it when I’m standing again,” Jason smirked while patting his shoulder like they were best buds. “Frickin’ giant.”
Horrified at the promise of violence, Sookie screeched out that it wasn’t happening under her watch. A knowing look travelled between the two men in the room as her hysteria continued on for their amusement, solidifying both bond and promise. When all tempers and emotions had finally settled down, they left the apartment to dine out, fresh air and different surroundings being much needed after the intense conversations in the small apartment. A promise of a great, big steak was upheld as Jason was glad to be eating some real food after all the hospital meals.
His stomach grumbling while raking his eyes over the menu, Sookie answered yes to all the foods Jason was requesting her to make over the coming days, if only to stop him from ordering them all, a litany that didn’t stop until an overfilled plate was before him, and Sookie happily leaned into Eric’s side as they watched him gorge it down in one go. The evening had gone better than she had ever hoped possible. Her brother had given her his approval of Eric and it meant more to her than she thought it would. It was of the real Eric, her husband, not the fraud. Jason contentedly rubbed his full tummy while examining the dessert menu, and he spoke nonchalantly, “Sis, didn’t they call you schizo in high school?”
His eyes hadn’t moved from the pages of the menu while the old insult made her relive the pain. Eric noticed where Jason didn’t and pulled her close.
“You’re the sanest person I know,” he murmured softly in her ear. She let out a small gust of air through her nose, considering the company he kept. He had, however, effectively salved the wound, allowing her to reply evenly.
“Yeah, so what?” she returned with a guarded tone.
Jason finally looked up after deciding on his intended dessert, “Ever think you’re not the only one?”
“Jason, I’m not schizophrenic!” she returned, incensed.
“I know you’re not,” he said while unapologetically leering at an attractive female two tables over. “I mean, like, ever thought you’re not the only one with the mind shit?”
Sookie calmed a little at the misinterpretation, startled to find Jason was still thinking about all the information he’d received that afternoon. “If we’d grown up with those crazy-ass Brigants we’d be insane, too,” Jason shrugged. “Imagine how they’d deal with that. You’d be in a padded cell like that Dermot, too.”
They were interrupted by the waitress momentarily, taking their order for coffee and desserts, of which Jason ordered many. Sookie fondled the spent napkin on the cleared table, looking to Eric for direction.
“It’s a thought,” he offered, pointing out, “Dermot and you could have the same ability. His teenage years were troubled like yours.”
Sookie didn’t want to contemplate that possibility. Mental insanity was always something of which she was accused, but always something from that she refused to believe she suffered. The thought that Dermot’s state was foreshadowing her own scared her immensely.
“Being taken advantage of that way by an older woman who’s supposed to be your new mom? That shit’s rough,” Jason said in a manner that troubled Sookie. It was almost as if he spoke from experience. “Even if he had only half the quirk you have, it would be enough to make him certifiable in that equation.”
Jason didn’t like thinking of the woman who had taken his virginity. At the time it seemed the greatest thing on earth, however, when he’d reached her age, and then regarded girls his age at that time, it had all stopped making sense. Somehow the entire encounter had become dirty, coming to a crash when he’d come across his old teacher by accident in the Bon Temps convenience store. Adding insult to injury, she had tried to apologise after she’d had sex with him again following that meeting in the PigglyWiggly, confirming his worst suspicions that he’d so carefully ignored.
She was right, making it all the more confrontational, she had taken advantage of him. Still raw from his debacle with Crystal, it had hit him harder than he’d liked to admit, making him look at his entire sexual past in a new light. It had been his reason to agree to come to Switzerland when Claudine suddenly showed up on his doorstep. He needed to be as far away from home and anything that reminded him of his sordid past in that moment.
He had always felt justified in his instincts to keep the Brigants at bay, even more so now, but his state of mind in that moment had overridden it, a mistake he wasn’t eager to repeat and wouldn’t allow his sister to do either. It had gotten their parents killed, he and his sister manipulated, and a nasty scar on the side of his skull, though he had to admit it was rather bad ass, and the blonde two tables over seemed to agree.
Sookie hadn’t uttered a word in reply while Jason and Eric moved on to small talk, she remained painfully silent until they arrived home. She sent Jason and Eric up ahead of her while she collected the mail, opening a thick envelope from the hospital, assuming it was important to Jason’s care. Instead it was a stack of cards once attached to the never-ending bouquets of flowers Sookie had turned away without ever looking at them. Most were signed N.B. or had the Brigant family crest with some form of an apology and well wishes, which she disregarded instantly. Among the last was a smaller envelope with a blank card, calling her attention. Shivers ran down her spine when she flipped it open, revealing a telephone number and a message; It was no accident. We should talk.
A/N: Dun, dun, dun… ehm yeah sorry about that I’ll let you in on all what that little message is about next time, but feel free to speculate who might have written that message… 😀
I’ll miss Jason’s banter with the doctor, but hey there might be a Euro Ass nurse heading his way 😉 No worries Sookie will get over her fear of mental issues soon enough, I mean who wouldn’t with an Eric like that? Love to hear your thoughts as always and as ever much gratitude to msbuffy for her work on this.
Also a special congrats to askarsgirl and Jackie69 for correctly guessing Sookie wasn’t going to be much for the obeying part… although that really wasn’t that hard to guess 😉